Lot N: 0243
PIETRO MAGNI (1817 - 1877)
70 x 170 x 70 cm
Grey marble base. Signed. Restorations.
“La fiera gente inospitale e cruda/alla bestia crudel nel lito espose/la bellissima donna, cosí ignuda/come Natura prima la compose./Un velo non ha pure, in che richiuda/i bianchi gigli e le vermiglie rose,/da non cader per luglio o per dicembre,/di che son sparse le polite membre”. This is how Ludovico Ariosto, in the Canto X of the "Orlando Furioso" begins to describe the scene that can be seen, portrayed in marble, in this exceptional sculpture by Pietro Magni: the young Angelica, captured by the inhabitants of the Isola del Pianto, is depicted tied to the rock while, with a backward movement on the slippery stone, she tries to withdraw from the advance of the sea monster; everything happens a moment before the woman is finally saved and freed by the heroic Roger, almost a snapshot of the moment of maximum vulnerability before the final liberation. This image certainly provided the artist with the literary pretext to portray the female body in a rapid and sinuous movement, but the scene can also be seen in a more strictly political perspective, with an allusion to the situation in Italy, which, in the years around 1852 (dating of the first version of the "Angelica") was in the midst of the Risorgimento, between the First and Second War of Independence.
Net of political implications, the literary subject of Angelica, whose romantic charm was first captured by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in his painting "Roger freeing Angelica" (1819), nevertheless had to enjoy particular international favor in the field of sculpture of those years, as evidenced by some possible contemporary comparisons on the same theme, such as with the "Angélique attachée au rocher" by Andre-François-Joseph Truphême, on display at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1855 and today at the Museum of Grenoble, or with the homonymous work by Ernest Carrier Belleuse, exhibited with great success at the Salon of 1866.
Magni's Angelica was a particularly successful subject, repeated several times starting from his conception in 1852 and presented at various national and international exhibitions. In addition to the present, three other versions are known, also in marble: one is at the Palácio Nacional da Ajuda in Lisbon, another one is located at Farmleigh House in Dublin and the last, a 66 cm high reduction purchased by Baron Pasquale Revoltella and already identified with the sculpture exhibited in Brera in 1859, it is now located in the homonymous Civic Museum in Trieste, together with other marble masterpieces by the same artist, such as the "Cut of the isthmus of Suez" (1863) and the "Fountain of the nymph Aurisina "(1858). Furthermore, a possible fifth version, today of unknown location, cannot be excluded, since the sources of the time report that the "Angelica" presented by Magni at the Paris Exposition of 1855 was on that occasion acquired by the Queen of Holland Sofia of Württemberg (“la bella statua d’Angelica dello scultore Pietro Magni fu comperata all’esposizione di Parigi da un ciambellano della Regina dei Paesi Bassi”, in “La Cronaca. Giornale di scienze, lettere, arti, economia, industria”, Milan 1855, p.763), while at the Milanese Exposition of the same year, whose catalogue illustrated the Paris version, G. Sacchi states that a model "in iscagliola" was presented, of which today the traces seem to have been lost. The "Angelica" today in Ireland, already known at the time by the name of "Andromeda" (a change perhaps due to the greater appeal that the ancient myth could exercise compared to Ariosto's work on the British public) is also the version of which more detailed information is known and attests to the strong interest of the English and Irish aristocracy in Italian sculpture and, specifically, in the work of Pietro Magni: the owner, the Earl Edward Cecil Guinnes, was in fact a passionate collector of this artist and, in addition to the "Angelica / Andromeda", he also acquired the celebrated sculpture of "Socrates", probably to be identified with the version now present in the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Both were originally purchased for the residence of Iveagh House, perhaps at the London Exposition of 1862, since there were no similar models presented by Magni at the Dublin Exposition in 1865 and already in 1872 the two sculptures, from the catalogue of loans for the "Dublin Exhibition of Arts, Industries and Manufactures" of that year, are owned by the Earl ("Official Catalogue of the Dublin Exhibition of Arts, Industries and Manufactures and Loan Museum of Works of Art, 1872", pp. 79- 80, esq. No. 4-33).
Assuming that the sculpture today in Portugal is the same one presented and sold at the Oporto Exposition of 1865 and that the current location of the "Angelica" attested in the Dutch royal collections in 1855 remains unknown, various hypotheses arise regarding the dating of our sculpture: : it is possible to think that this is the work presented at the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1867 (“Exposition Universelle de 1867 à Paris : catalogue général; 1ière partie: (Groupes I à V) contenant les oeuvres d’art”, Class 3 , n ° 59), or that it may be identifiable with the “Angelica”; statua al vero"presented by Pietro Magni at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Milan in 1872 (26 August-7 October) and cited among the sculptures exhibited by the artist together with a"Ritratto virile a busto; di commissione" ("Seconda Esposizione nazionale di belle arti diretta da un comitato eletto dalla regia Accademia di Brera: 1872”, Milan 1872, p. 14 n. 28), or it could be an unidentifiable version closer to original model from the mid-19th century, an option towards which the high executive quality would lean towards.
Pietro Magni, one of the leading exponents of the so-called "Scuola di Milano", was one of the main sculptors of that Risorgimento and patriotic period in which the neoclassical style was giving way to the romantic impetus, an interpretation best suited with the times, which Magni lived in person, directly taking part in the events of the Roman Republic of 1849. He studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan and was a pupil of Abbondio Sangiorgio. Already winner of the Academy Award in 1850 with his "David", in 1855 he was invited to the Universal Exposition in Paris, the first step towards an international success which saw him attend numerous other Expositions, including Milan, Paris, Florence , Vienna, London, Dublin, and Santiago de Chile. Among his best known works, in addition to the "Angelica", the "David" and the "Monument to Leonardo da Vinci" in Piazza della Scala in Milan, the famous "Leggitrice": almost an ideal pendant of Angelica, two different interpretations to understand the Italian sculpture of romantic inspiration of the period, this elegant sculpture recollected in a movement of passions all internal to the soul of the girl (while in Angelica they are external and visible) immediately had great success, being replicated in several copies, one of which is now at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan.
Comparative literature: “La Cronaca. Giornale di scienze, lettere, arti, economia, industria”, Milan 1855, p.763;
E. About, “Voyage à travers l'exposition des beaux-arts (peinture et sculpture)”, Paris 1855, p. 263;
G. Sacchi, “L’Angelica, statua grande al vero di Pietro Magni” in “Esposizione di Belle Arti in Milano e Venezia, 1855. Anno XVII”, Milan 1855, pp. 46-51;
“Rivista di Firenze e Bullettino delle Arti del Disegno”, Anno II, vol. IV, Florence 1858, p. 79;
A. Caimi, “Delle arti del disegno e degli artisti nelle province di Lombardia dal 1777 al 1862”, Milan 1862, pp. 186-187;
“Exposition Universelle de 1867 à Paris : catalogue général; 1ière partie: (Groupes I à V) contenant les oeuvres d’art”, Paris 1867, Class 3, n°59;
“Official Catalogue of the Dublin Exhibition of Arts, Industries and Manufactures and Loan Museum of Works of Art, 1872, Fine Arts Section, Sculpture”, Dublin 1872, n. 4-33;
“Seconda Esposizione nazionale di belle arti diretta da un comitato eletto dalla regia Accademia di Brera: 1872”, Milan 1872, p. 14 n. 28;
Yorick figlio di Yorick (alias P. C. Ferrigni), “Fra quadri e statue. Strenna in ricordo della Seconda Esposizione Nazionale di Belle Arti”, Milan 1873, pp. 30-32;
“The Art Journal”, vol. XVI, London 1877, p. 100;
Civico Museo Revoltella, “Galleria d’Arte Moderna. Catalogo delle Opere”, Trieste 1961, p. 34 n. 211;
A. Tamburini, “Pietro Magni scultore (1816-1877)”, dissertation, University of Milan, supervisor Prof. F. Barbieri, a.a. 1984-1985, pp. 114-116;
F. Tedeschi, “La scultura della Scuola di Milano attraverso le Esposizioni Internazionali (1851-1878) e la critica”, in AA. VV. “La Città di Brera. Due Secoli di Scultura”, Milan 1995, pp. 71-84;
F. Tedeschi, “Le figure femminili nella scultura: retorica e nuovi generi” in R. Cassanelli, S. Rebora, F. Valli (cured by), “Milano pareva deserta…1849-1859. L’invenzione della Patria”, Milan 1998, p. 50;
M. De Grassi, “Committenti di Pietro Magni a Trieste” in “Arte in Friuli. Arte a Trieste”, 20, Trieste 2000, pp. 165-166;
A. Panzetta, "Nuovo Dizionario degli scultori italiani dell'Ottocento e del primo Novecento", II, Turin 2003, pp. 560-561;
M. Heffernan, “Edward Cecil Guinness: Noblesse Oblige”, Irish Arts Review (2002-), Vol. 26, No. 3, 2009, pp. 92-95.